Temporary COVID-19 ED takes shape despite cases falling away

Ian Bushnell 1 May 2020 88
Temporary ED

The temporary emergency department construction site last Friday. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

The ACT’s temporary COVID-19 emergency department is taking shape on Garran Oval and is on target to be complete by mid-May.

The ACT Government contracted local company Aspen Medical to build and operate the facility at a cost of $23 million earlier this month when concerns were high that the ACT’s hospital system would be overwhelmed by COVID-19 cases if the virus spread through the Canberra population.

Since then, social distancing and other containment measures have reduced the presence of the virus in Canberra to virtually zero, with only two active cases isolating at home with ACT Health support.

But the government and health officials remain vigilant due to fears of a second wave of COVID-19 cases in the winter, particularly if restrictions are eased.

Garran ED

Garran Oval was selected because of its proximity to Canberra Hospital. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

“While we are seeing a decrease of confirmed cases in the Territory, we are continuing with plans for this facility to ensure we are prepared and well-resourced should we see an increase in cases,” an ACT Health spokesperson said.

Sited close to the Canberra Hospital campus for the fast and easy transfer of patients, work on the facility began on 9 April but the model of care and number of staff required at the facility is still to be determined.

When the 50-bed facility, including six resuscitation beds, was announced, Aspen Medical said it would need about 200 staff.

Aerial shot of the ED

An aerial shot of the site early in the construction. Photo: ACT Government.

The spokesperson said the ED remained a temporary facility and would only take patients with COVID-19.

”The facility will only be in place while the ACT is in a state of public health emergency,” the spokesperson said. “It will be removed, and Garran Oval will be fully restored once the state of health emergency is stood down.

”This facility has been built specifically to expand our capacity and enhance our ability to respond to COVID-19.”

The pre-fabricated, steel, rectangular structure is being manufactured off-site and then assembled on a concrete slab before being fitted out.

Constructing the ED

The pre-fab steel makes for quick construction. Photo: ACT Government.

It will be connected to the hospital via covered walkways.

Aspen Medical made its name globally providing rapid response medical services in many different locations, some remote and in epidemic situations, such as the African ebola outbreak.

The ACT Government has funded the $23 million project to the end of July, but Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith says it will continue operating after July if required.


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88 Responses to Temporary COVID-19 ED takes shape despite cases falling away
Cary Elliot Johnson Cary Elliot Johnson 6:20 am 04 May 20

I can see this turning into a long term overflow ward given the pre Covid ward issues and eventually a permanent building on site given that there was a DA sign up on that site about a year ago for an extension to the W&C Hospital

Nicole McGuire Nicole McGuire 7:23 pm 02 May 20

People complain in previous winters that the ED are under resourced and can’t keep up. I have been pushed from ED to EMU and then out at 3am in sub zero temperature when very sick to free up a bed. That was horrible. The ED generally needs to expand not just because of COVID19.

    Sarah Baker Sarah Baker 7:29 pm 02 May 20

    Nicole exactly right! Both hospitals in almost all wards were full last winter, and that was without covid

    Nicole McGuire Nicole McGuire 7:31 pm 02 May 20

    Sarah Baker I know right. every year. Healthy people haven’t experienced the horror.

Acton Acton 7:09 pm 02 May 20

Welcome to the ACT where classrooms have no kids.
Buses run with no passengers.
A $23m facility is built for no patients.
Rates rise with no relief.
And voters have no alternatives.

    JC JC 7:59 am 03 May 20

    So you think the ACT should be moved to the moon? Because frankly you just described the Same basic situation that every state and territory in this country is facing. In fact I will go one further and say The best part of the first world.

    The only saving grace for us in Australia and the ACT of course is the hospital isn’t full to overflowing. That is something to be applauded not turned into a cheap political shot. The fact the hospitals are so empty is thanks to the policies and effort put in by the PM, the federal government and all state and territory leaders as well as the vast majority of the population who have removed their tin foil hats and their party political blinkers.

    Oh did I just praise a liberal PM and liberal premiers? Yep I did in the circumstances what they have done thus far have saved our bacon. As I said now isn’t the time for cheap political shots at any pollie. (Except maybe Trump).

Peter Hatfield Peter Hatfield 11:21 am 02 May 20

I hope they have heaters.

chewy14 chewy14 1:06 am 02 May 20

Anyone that can’t see the need for this ED is blind. We are still at a huge risk of Coronavirus that needs appropriate planning by health authorities.

They have done well in increasing capacity, which is part of the reason we will be able to reduce restrictions.

Capital Retro Capital Retro 9:35 pm 01 May 20

I’m sure most of us are familiar with that episode of Yes Minister where Jim Hacker visits the most efficient hospital in Great Britain.

rsm1105 rsm1105 4:02 pm 01 May 20

On the bright side, it’s a lot cheaper than a desalination plant.

Amy Willmott Amy Willmott 1:26 pm 01 May 20

🤦‍♀️ All of the people whinging about this being a waste of money would probably be the first ones to condemn the government after the heartbreak of a 2nd wave for being ill-prepared without the extra hospital capacity.

I for one feel much more reassured by this. Thanks ACT Govt!

    Julie Macklin Julie Macklin 2:53 pm 01 May 20

    My thoughts exactly. You can be fairly sure about that. Some people will complain abut whatever they can.We build the temporary emergency compartment they complain. We don't they would be on the forefront of complaining if a second wave hits. They complain about the tram and say buses are better. If we didn't have the tram, they would complain about buses. Whatever is done, it's something to complain about. Lives full of negativity with no vision beyond the now.

Spiral Spiral 10:19 am 01 May 20

It will probably be a waste of money.
But I’d prefer to spend money on it and then find it wasn’t required than to call a halt to it and suddenly be hit by a new wave or Coronavirus resulting in people dying because we don’t have suitable facilities.

It’s a bit like car or house insurance. Usually a waste of money but suddenly essential if we ever do need it.

Acton Acton 7:12 am 01 May 20

The people of the ACT should be outraged that their ever increasing rates are being wasted on this $23m white elephant. There are no cases in the ACT and our existing hospitals have plenty of spare capacity to handle any severe cases that may occur. The only ones benefiting from this unnecessary extravgence are the building contractor and the Aspen medical corporation.

    JC JC 1:35 pm 01 May 20

    Bull dust. As many posts have said this is an insurance policy and if the government didn’t built it and it was required there would be howls of outrage from people such as yourself that enough was not done.

    As for the cost, the bulk of the funding is coming from Federal Government as part of the National COVID19 response. Other states have received similar funding to ramp up their hospital systems.

    maxblues maxblues 2:15 am 02 May 20

    Other states have spent money on their hospitals and are not using school ovals to treat patients.

    Capital Retro Capital Retro 9:39 pm 01 May 20

    Isn’t $23 million the same amount the ACT government has paid to get an out of town football club to play a few games in Canberra for the past nine years to appease just few thousand fans?

    That is definitely a white elephant.

Jason Waight Jason Waight 5:52 am 01 May 20

Many cities have these stand by facilities in mothballs for excess demand.

maxblues maxblues 1:27 am 01 May 20

How many more $millions will it cost to keep this facility (with a “yet to be determined” model of care) open when the contract expires in July?

Greg Miller Greg Miller 10:42 pm 30 Apr 20

People seem to forget that Canberra Hospital is the largest hospital in our region, and cases from across our region - most of which is in NSW - are sent here to access specialist doctors and significant equipment that smaller hospitals aren't able to handle. So this is being built with that wider role in mind, not just what Canberra needs

Peter McArdle Peter McArdle 9:44 pm 30 Apr 20

Hopefully it will be ready for the 2nd and 3rd waves of the pandemic.

Robert Mair Robert Mair 8:31 pm 30 Apr 20

Unless they is a second Covid-19 wave, this seems a waste of money!

    Ashley Latimer Ashley Latimer 9:07 pm 30 Apr 20

    Robert Mair flattening the curve isn't about erradicating the virus - it is going to be with us for a very long time, so it is better to be prepared than to not be. Even if ACT is fairing well, we're surrounded by NSW who're still seeing new infections.

    Monty Ki Monty Ki 1:53 pm 02 May 20

    Robert Mair if it's a "waste of money" that means we have been successful and that is a great thing to celebrate. Imagine if we go the other way, like Italy? Then people like you would be mourning the loss of loved ones (or dying yourself in a horrible way) wondering why the government hadn't done anything. Be grateful it's a "waste of money" because it means we have been spared a worse fate... for now at least. If a second wave of this pandemic occurs, you may change your mind about this.

    Dannii Harrington Dannii Harrington 7:49 pm 02 May 20

    If we don’t use it for COVID, we could use it for all the influenza and respiratory issues that winter months will bring anyway.

Carole Ford Carole Ford 8:16 pm 30 Apr 20

We should not dismiss the potential of Covid19 to re-emerge and start a second wave. Winter is coming along with the latest flu. 😷🤧🤒😱

Helen Mackenzie Helen Mackenzie 7:47 pm 30 Apr 20

They know whats coming

Daniel Howell Daniel Howell 6:44 pm 30 Apr 20

Hahaha gotta love Canberra

Liu Rui Liu Rui 6:06 pm 30 Apr 20

Nothing wrong here. Good job, ACT Gov! 👍👏

Jay Luton Jay Luton 5:06 pm 30 Apr 20

Ben Waters your mate at it again

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